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Fetid Waters: Hospitals in Shahrekord Filled with Sick Children

June 26, 2023
Maryam Dehkordi
6 min read
A sample of piped water in the city of Shahrekord
A sample of piped water in the city of Shahrekord
Kuhrang Spring, which provides 50 percent of Shahrekord’s drinking water, is now muddied
Kuhrang Spring, which provides 50 percent of Shahrekord’s drinking water, is now muddied
The water treatment center that provides Shahrekord with water has not been working properly since last year
The water treatment center that provides Shahrekord with water has not been working properly since last year
The water treatment center that provides Shahrekord with water has not been working properly since last year
The water treatment center that provides Shahrekord with water has not been working properly since last year

On August 7, 2022, the flow of piped water from Kuhrang Spring in the mountains to Shahrekord, capital of the south-western province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, gradually stopped. The flow of water was believed to have been cut off due to the turbidity of the water following torrential rains in the region. For more than ten days the city had no piped water and people gathered in front of the governor’s office to protest the inaction by the government. Ten months later, the water piped into the city remains polluted despite many promises by government officials.

With summer heat approaching, Ali paid a visit to Kuhrang Spring, Deymeh village and the big sweet-water springs that have made Shahrekord known as the city with most spring water in Iran. For the past four days, however, his three-year-old child has been bed-ridden in the hospital because of the quality of the water.

“After spending a day in Shahrekord, we took the child with symptoms of fever, nausea and diarrhea to the hospital,” Ali tells IranWire. “We noticed that in some hours the piped water turned turbid and fetid. We used mineral water for drinking and piped water for cooking. We thought that boiling the water would be enough but apparently it’s not, and the water smells even after being boiled. It’s not like that all the time. It happens mostly in the mornings and in the afternoons. The water treatment plant has not been working properly for months and it is still not fixed.”

According to Ali, the city’s hospitals are filled with patients, especially children who have been hospitalized with digestive problems and symptoms that have affected his child.

“You may not believe it, but there are no beds available in the children’s wards of government hospitals where my child is hospitalized,” he says. “They don’t allow fathers into the children’s ward and mothers must sit next to their children all by themselves. I have no idea how we could have found a hospital bed for our child if we hadn't known people in this city.”

He is worried that many other children might be suffering from similar symptoms without the possibility of being hospitalized and says: “We first went to a private clinic but they sent us to a government hospital. My child is hospitalized in a room with ten beds, and all of the other children in that room have been hospitalized with the same symptoms of drinking polluted water.”

Ten days after the water was cut off in Shahrekord in August last year, a city resident told IranWire: “Fixing water transfer pipes would take a couple of days, but the water has been cut off. I’m not saying the water pressure is low; the water is polluted or it’s muddy; it’s completely cut off. They say they are going to bring water with tankers. I live on the sixth floor of an apartment building without an elevator. How many times do I have to go down for water to do what is necessary? I suspect this is not just a technical problem in water transmission.”

On August 10, 2022, provincial officials promised that the water problem in Shahrekord would be solved within a couple of days. Nine months later, the water is flowing through the pipes, but it endangers people’s health.

On May 28, in a short interview with Tasnim news agency, Dr. Ali Ahmadi, head of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province’s Health Center, confirmed that water in parts of the city was very turbid and unfit for drinking. However, he denied that the water was causing digestive problems and insisted that “no pathogen has been found in the drinking water of Shahrekord.”

However, Ali says “the emergency room and the children’s ward was full of children who had diarrhea and were vomiting although, fortunately, they had no fever. The doctors said that these were all the result of drinking polluted water.”

Dr. Ahmadi blamed the turbidity and the fetidness of water in Shahrekord on problems in the water treatment center in Kuhrang and said, without offering any details: “Previous managers should have taken actions, which they didn’t do, and that’s why we have these problems. Providing and distributing water is the responsibility of the regional water and sewage organization and our responsibility is to supervise its quality.”

He also said that the ceramic water filter installed at Khalak Sureshjan pass has not been approved by his Health Center and a well-equipped water treatment center is needed for treating the water from Kuhrang Spring.

“People must be told to boil water for five minutes if it’s turbid, and the Water and Sewage Organization must distribute containers of healthy water,” he added.

After Kuhrang’s water treatment center went offline last year, Ahmad Rastineh, a member of the parliament from Shahrekord, said that the weakness of the water distribution infrastructure and the lack of an advanced water treatment system are the main factors behind the water crisis in at least seven cities and 34 villages in the province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari.

Kuhrang Spring provides 50 percent of Shahrekord’s drinking water. Officials of the city’s Water and Sewage Organization say that the snow that melts into this spring has become muddy because of climate change, torrential rains and the erosion of vegetation cover.

On May 29, Ferdows Karimi, CEO of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari’s Water Company said that the first phase of the new and advanced water treatment center has been completed and will become operational.

However, many people in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari remain skeptical. “This is not the first time that Shahrekord has been hit with the problem of water pollution, and they had enough time to fix it,” says the Shahrekord resident who spoke with IranWire. “At least since August last year, these gentlemen had time to do a minimum amount of work. The muddying of the water has been happening for many years… Right now water pollution is threatening the lives and the health of vulnerable groups like children, and nobody is accountable.”

Because of the water pollution, the people of Shahrekord try to use mineral water instead of piped water. Distribution of water with tankers has started in some neighborhoods.

A Repeating Story

Tehran, home to almost 9 million people, has also been experiencing severe water shortages.

In mid-June, images circulated online showing residents of Tehran and nearby Karaj resorting to water tankers dispatched by the Water and Sewage Organization, or facing the arduous task of collecting water from public taps.

Reports say that some parts of the capital experienced water shortages lasting almost a week, while lack of prior notice exacerbated the difficulties faced by the populations.

Mehdi Ketabchi, a water researcher of Iranian background living in the United States, explained to IranWire that water shortages are a recurring issue in the country that affect not only drinking water supplies but also agriculture.  

"We are witnessing a socio-economic drought in Iran and Tehran. This means that water exists in dams or wells, but it cannot be effectively used," he said. 



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